Oak – bears acorns, grows in open spaces & on hilltops {Quercus sp.}

Location Summary:

Habitat: Oaks are a prominent tree in many ecosystems planetround- especially temperate zones. In North America,    Oak trees tend to like a full day of sunlight, which is why they often grow in open spaces such as hilltops & depend upon animals such as squirrels & humans (traditionally throughout temperate zones) to help spread their seeds.

Oak Tree  {Quercus sp.} on USDA.gov

Identification Characteristics:

    A lone Oak basks in the the midday sun of the Sequoia National Forest in the Southern Sierra Mountain Range.  Oaks prefer a lot of sunlight & are a draught-tolerant, often growing on hilltops.

Oak whole tree

    All Oak leaves have this “classic Oak leaf shape”, with some leaves much more pronounced than others:

2 leaves

    Small leaves of the Live Oak still bear this classic shape.

Oak leaves

3 acorns

Acorns- the nut that fed all our pre-agricultural ancestors for thousands of years.  With the introduction of agriculture, our ancestors began feeding these to pigs. Many nature-lovers, vegetarians & Native Americans today still love acorns as our primary food source. They contain all the essential amino acids by themselves, & are a perfectly abundant, drought-tolerant food source.

Learn how to tell Oak trees apart simply by examining the acorns here.

Historical Edible, Medicinal, & Utility Uses:

   Oak trees are perhaps one of the most unused, industrially-viable, readily-available sustainable source of resources on the planet. According to a modern Miwok recipe for acorn soup, “it is essential that you add a generous amount of California laurel” when storing acorns to dry, to keep insects away from the acorns.

All acorns (Oak nuts) are edible, but most must species (all but White Oaks of the Eastern U.S.) must have the bitter tannic acid removed before they are palatable. There are several ways to remove the tannins, & it is simplest & most energy efficient to do so while in the wilderness using traditional techniques.

According to the book It Will Live Forever, by Julia Parker, there is something that was done for thousands of years to ensure a simplified & more productive acorn harvest.  Acorns drop their initial load of acorns that have been infected by insects (acorns with holes in them) about a month before they drop their primo supply of the stuff we love.  After this initial “dump”, the leaves & affected acorns are raked into small piles to be control burned.  This would help:

  • restore nutrients back into the soil
  • remove the “bad” acorns from the harvest
  • prevent out-of-control wildfires

   One method is to crush the acorns, put them in some kind of container that water can flow through (shirt, basket, etc.), & put them into a river or well-moving stream. This will leech out the tannic acid within 3-5 days, but be sure to knead the bag each day so that the water continues to flow through & the acorn mush doesn’t clump together. Next, roast the meal on an open fire or dry them in the sun for 24 hours or until dry. Then, grind them with a clean, flat stone or in a metate to make flour.

A 2nd method is to smash the acorns & boil them in water 8-10 (see ‘rock boiling’ & ‘3-rock method’ below, as these cooking technique make this practical & ecologically beneficial unlike conventional cooking methods) times or until the water runs clear (boiling the acorns turns the water brown with tannic acid & other topically-healthful chemicals, which can be drained, cooled, & thrown onto your friends or dumped over your own body each time—see medicinal uses below). After processing, taste the acorns. If not too bitter, they’re ready to be dried & ground into flour.

Acorn Flour: a “first food” of all temperate-zone people. Acorn flour contains all 9 essential amino acids―making is a “complete protein”. Acorn flour contains half the daily value (DV) of protein per serving. Acorns provide calcium, potassium, & many other minerals & nutrients according to this chart by NutritionData.com.

There are 4 types of saturated fats, & acorns contain the healthy type called “lauric acid the same type that is found in coconuts!  Lauric acid is an 8-chain molecule unlike stearic acid (a 14-chain molecule saturated fat) that is found in the meat of animal flesh, which causesartery plague. Lauric acid is considered a healthy type of saturated fat, & should not be confused with “bad fats”. Note: “Artery plague” can be removed by eating a slice of garlic each day (in case your cholesterol is high!

Utility Uses: Deadwood from Oaks burns a very clean, hot fire, & has been used for thousands of years to provide pleasant fires as an energy source to humans.  Using a Keyhole Lay (see the “rocks present” section of the Ancestral Cooking Techniques section), the coals from a clean Oak fire can be used to bake several wild foods directly in.  These are called Ashbake Foods, which also have their own section on this database.

Medicinal: Acorns can be used to grow a mold that works very similarly to penicillin by crushing them & putting them in a dark place for about a week. The juice from the boiled bark, galls, or acorns can be used as burn ointment medicine. The crushed galls made into a poultice will help stop bleeding & also aids in healing many skin diseases & other problems (including eczema, psoriasis, sunburns, & more). Oak charcoal (again, from pouring water on an Oak fire) can be used as charcoal tablets to settle the stomach or to absorb toxins.

Lonewolf says: Acorn flour may be used to make great pancakes, cookies, pies, & it can be mixed with many other types of flour. I love acorn pancakes mixed with native chia seeds & blackberries, currant berries, & other wild foods & spices! Yum yum yum! You can even pour wild honey on them.

Positive-Impact Harvesting Techniques:

   Because Oaks prefer plenty of sunlight, simply plant some cutting & bury some acorns during the harvest, & always leave plenty underneath each tree for the wildlife.

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References:

 Tsalagi Medicine Man Richard Lonewolf, NutritionData.comIt Will Live Forever, by Julia Parkerhttp://www.wikihow.com/Identify-Oaks-by-the-Acorns

Database Entry & Photos:  Distance Fathoms Everheart 1-5-14

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This website is being compiled by Wild Willpower.

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